I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation on the subject of the Innes National Park.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: A constituent visited the Goyder electorate office recently and reported to them the condition of the Innes National Park, particularly in relation to the ticketing, which is inefficient and turning visitors away. There is one option to go to Minlaton or Port Vincent to purchase a park pass.
Her own experience two weeks ago was that it took her 20 minutes to operate the machine within Innes, and she also came across some very upset visitors when she was there. Apparently, if you drive past the visitors centre and go to the place where you used to pay, it's only to realise that it's no longer there, and you apparently can't get back to the visitor information centre. You have to walk through the scrub, and it's all rather confusing. My questions for the minister are:
1.Is he aware that there are continuing problems with visitor access and passes to the Innes National Park?
2.Is he able to provide visitor numbers to the park over the period since the electronic ticketing has been required and how this compares to the same period in the previous financial year?
3.Does he acknowledge that the expectation of planned visits with electronic payment requirements has resulted in casual visitors just giving up as a result of problems with the new arrangements?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:26 :05 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. She is quite right: the department has put a new online booking system in place to improve visitor experience. This system is being closely monitored to ensure that it is working effectively. I am advised the department has received positive feedback from visitors on the new online booking system. The system has proven benefits for park users, demonstrated recently by interstate and overseas park agencies who use similar booking methods.
The new system has been put in place to improve the distribution of park information and booking services. It's expected to be more modern, efficient and is the result of statewide advances in national park tourism and visitor management. It's designed to improve visitor access to national park tourism as well as the management of visitors.
This investment ensures our national parks align with broader tourism booking systems. The department has also implemented the system in response to feedback from visitors who expect the provision of a modern technological service. The innovation of an online booking system enables local, national and international access to park entry, camping and heritage accommodation bookings and information on national parks, all from a home computer or a smart device.
Bookings can be made up to a year in advance. A computer enabling public access to the booking facility and national parks website is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the visitor information centre within Innes National Park. The visitor information centre will maintain its key function as a distribution point for national park information via this new system.
I appreciate that the keyboard and inbuilt mouse for this computer takes a little longer to navigate. It certainly would for me, I expect. I am told the keyboard was specifically purchased for its strength and durability, and the keyboard shield design also makes theft and vandalism less likely. I understand the online booking system encountered a number of technical issues during the first two months of the pilot; however, I am advised that these issues have now been resolved.
The system was in place for the long weekends in October 2014 and Easter 2015. I am told there has been an excellent uptake of the online booking system. For the first time in many years, campgrounds in Innes National Park were fully booked for the Easter period and this was all done, I am told, via the online system. I am also told that feedback from visitors was incredibly positive, with people especially grateful that they could book a site online and know that it would be there for them on arrival, thus cutting out the need to rush to get to a site before campgrounds filled up.
DEWNR trialled a mobile takeaway food van in Innes National Park over the Easter holidays, and I understand that this was also very well received by visitors. The department is currently assessing an expression of interest for a commercial lease of the Innes National Park visitor information centre and heritage accommodation. Once the lease is finalised, there will be opportunities for the lessee to operate as a booking agent and take cash payments for entry permits.
In the interim, cash and other payment for entry into Innes National Park can be made at the Yorke Peninsula visitor information centre located at Minlaton en route to Innes from Adelaide. Bookings can also be made on the way to Mount Remarkable National Park at the Natural Resources Centre in Clare. Further information on the booking agents can be found at www.parks.sa.gov.au. Park visitors have been informed of these interim arrangements via email, Facebook, the National Parks SA website and through local media.
The online booking system was rolled out to parks in the South-East of the state in February 2015 on the strength of its performance in the Innes and Mount Remarkable national parks. Innes National Park is an iconic park, and this government is committed to ensuring that the community and visitors from abroad can continue to enjoy this very special place.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:29 :32 ): For those visitors to Innes National Park who have not found it an 'incredibly positive' experience, is there a telephone number that they can contact so that they can give DEWNR some negative feedback about the new system?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:29 :45 ): Mr President, we are always happy to receive feedback when it is constructive, positive, and will help us improve our services. They can find that number through the sa.gov.au website.